Learning and development professionals often have access to leaders across the organization, due to their work’s impact at all levels of employees across all departments. If L&D professionals have a strong track record of collaborating with these business leaders to drive success; producing valuable data and reports on a consistent basis; and being fair, open and understanding team players, there are any number of ways L&D professionals can maximize these relationships outside of their own curriculum requirements.

One such opportunity is partnering with employee resource groups (ERGs). In most organizations, employees have diverse interests and backgrounds, and ERGs bring people with common interests together to create an inclusive workplace aligned with the organization’s mission and values. These voluntary, employee-led groups often help drive engagement, talent development and business performance; provide development opportunities, peer mentoring and networking; and work within corporate partnerships that extend companies’ reach for recruitment and preservation of a diverse, engaged workforce.

As noted in a 2018 article in the Small Business Chronicle, a diverse workforce helps expand a company’s customer base, in part by finding small market niches that its leaders would otherwise overlook. The positive impact of diversity and inclusion has been proven time and again. As reported by McKinsey, “Companies in the top quartile” for gender and racial/ethnic diversity are “more likely to have financial returns … above their national industry median.”

Training leaders can leverage their expertise and collaborate with leaders of their company’s ERGs to create diversity curricula that speak directly to the needs, mission and vision of their organizations and account for their unique corporate culture and demographics – something that’s not usually available through off-the-shelf solutions. Furthermore, these ERG leaders can tap into industry-specific trends and best practices to drive the design, development, implementation and evaluation of diversity training.

For example, one national organization that provides scorecards and best practices for workplace equality focused on LGBT employees is the Human Rights Campaign. Its Health Equality Index, for instance, is a benchmarking tool that evaluates health care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. The HEI 2018 evaluates more than 1,600 health care facilities nationwide.

In my own organization, we’ve based our LGBT ERG’s goals and mission on the HEI, as well as the more general index geared toward non-health care organizations, the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). These best practices bring value to the overall employee experience, drive better business results and provide measurable successes to the communities where businesses operate.

For example, the LGBT ERG I lead is developing a strategic plan to update our corporate policies based on the CEI’s and HEI’s recommendations. Since we already track revisions to our policies and notify all employees then they are posted on our intranet, it’s a tangible measurement of how we drive better business results in the area of corporate governance. As another example, our ERG has been facilitating transgender care sessions with our clinicians and leads cultural competency workshops with various groups across our other business areas, such as sales teams, call center operations, and special events and marketing teams.

These examples are really the tip of the iceberg as to how training can collaborate with ERGs and other organizations within a company to build a better workforce. With these efforts, L&D professionals can help their organizations meet the ever-changing needs of their communities; their customers, patients and/or members; and, of course, their employees.